Chapter 17


Prince Allam

How utterly ridiculous.

I was in love with someone who lived on another planet!

I had come across him, I had observed him – I had fallen for him.

And now I had to suffer the most heartbreaking and unbelievable unrequited love.  Who knows, he might have loved me, if he’d ever seen me or spoken to me for even an instant.  But of course that wasn’t possible; he didn’t even know I existed.  I was a disembodied spirit, following him around, being with him as often as possible.  Getting to know him, admiring him.  Gathering to myself a set of memories, of his words, his actions, and his looks.  Lingering happily beside him – the pure essence of love, for love this was truly – and yet never able to converse with him, never knowing his touch on my face, never having the pleasure of feeling his arms around me in an embrace.

Oh, it was a painful love, this my third and strangest love.

Why did I love him?  For his character, for his self.  For a young man, he had great presence and authority.  He was quite weighed down with newly acquired responsibility, and took everything very seriously, undertaking all tasks with dedication and commitment.  But he was also exceptionally kind, and exceptionally wise.  He treated everyone with respect.  He was marrying a woman he didn’t love, having been persuaded that to do this was in so many people’s interests and would change so many people’s lives for the better that there could be no acceptable counter-argument.  But he was utterly charming to the girl concerned and genuinely anxious that she should not be unhappy.  He befriended her, he had frank discussions with her.  He tried to hint that his feelings were not as they should be, but she was quite frank and wise herself, and met him half way.  Together they would reach an understanding and live happily together.

He had an intriguing circle of friends.  By the standards of the rather traditional society he was living in, he was liberal and open minded.  He held dinners attended by the broadest range of people, from scholars and scientists, through artists and musicians, to those who had the most radical political and intellectual ideas.

I had watched him debate the equivalent of socialism with a fringe politician (and been amazed at how this far-away society if not embraced then at least discussed the same sort of political extremes as existed on our world).

He returned constantly to the possibility of life on other planets, and as soon as he could, set up a relatively secret association to pursue research in this area.  He provided it with substantial funding, and became good friends with two or three of its founding members.  They would discuss physics and astronomy and statistics late into the night, in his study, and the discussions intrigued me.  I so longed to be able to reveal myself, to be able to shout out, ‘Yes you are right, there is life on other planets, there are other civilisations out there – and there is one representative from another planet right here in this room with you already, if only she could make herself known and heard!’

My dear Prince.  I stayed with him sometimes when he couldn’t sleep.  I tried to communicate with him, to somehow get into his head.  But sadly my talent, as I had always known, was not for telepathy, and I knew no way to inveigle myself into the neurons of his brain and his awareness.

The cat people of this planet seemed sometimes to feel my presence, which at first gave me great hope for the possibility of communication.  But I could find no way to convey even the simplest message, and gave up my efforts, for they seemed only to cause those noble creatures confusion and distress.

So I sat by my dear love’s side, and watched and yearned – and loved.

Then one day, after many weeks of this lovelorn doting and pining, things changed.  The woman he was going to marry came to stay at the Palace.

I couldn’t bear to see them together, but, motivated by curiosity and, I admit, a dreadful jealousy, I found myself following her about when she walked around the corridors and the grounds with her attendances.

She was – surprisingly plain, surprisingly mild mannered, surprisingly likeable.

She struck me as unhappy, her ready smile a little false, and hiding some inner turmoil.

Why was she so miserable?, I thought to myself bitterly.  She was going to marry the finest man on the planet, the man I loved!  I would have given anything, at that time, to change places with her, to accept her future as my own.

Oh, if anyone could have observed me!  They would have witnessed how my angry essence stomped about after her, finding fault with her clothes and her manners, watching her interactions with the gentlemen in her entourage in the hope of uncovering some inappropriateness that would make her unworthy of my Prince – not that I could have drawn any such indiscretion to his attention.

But she refused to be improper, refused to be devious.

Of course, she didn’t know that she had a rival in love, though if by some means we had been able to confront each other, I realised that I would be the one found wanting.  My jealousy was ugly, but it was borne of frustration due to my own predicament.  My love had no outlet, it festered and made me unhappy – and unsavoury.

And then one night I hung around the entrance to her chamber and heard crying from within.  I slipped under the door and found her sitting in a corner, gazing at the contents of a locket by candlelight.  Beneath her fingers was the portrait of a smiling young man – and I realised from her tears that this must be her true love, perhaps the childhood sweetheart she had been forced to leave behind.  She too was frustrated in love, she too was longing to be with someone she cared for, yet unable to be.

I wondered if my Prince – her Prince – knew that she had been forced to forsake this other man in order to make the royal match.  I doubted she would ever tell him.  I imagined her grieving secretly for years, putting on a brave face, doing her duty.            I no longer felt so jealous of her.  I felt my resentment flow away with the poor girl’s tears.

I began to visit less often, to spend more time back on my own world, in my own body.

But I went to the Wedding.

I floated by the Prince’s side, looked at this face as he said his vows, and yes, imagined he was saying them to me.

But it was my goodbye.  I could not intervene, I could not change the course of events in that far away place.  I knew it was time to take my leave and move on with my own life.

The cat people, Cheena and Fron, and all their cat family and friends, looked around them at the ceremony, I noticed, as if maybe they sensed my presence and my distress.

But my Prince knew nothing, as ever, of my presence.  He merely took the hand of the woman he did not love, and who did not love him, and, smiling dutifully, walked with her down the aisle and into their future, a future in which I had no place.

There was no point continuing to torment myself.  I watched him one last time, striding away from me towards his wedding feast, and wished him well as I took my leave.

When I returned to my body, I found that my face was soaked with tears.  It would remain that way for many days.

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